Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Differences Between High School and College

11/02/2017 | Published by: Shailen Singh

In K-12 education, you have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your student and, usually, day-to-day conversations with teachers. Opportunities to share information helps your student’s experience.

Colleges and universities work differently due to a federal law called Federal Educational Privacy Act (FERPA). College students own their educational records. The content cannot be shared with anyone who doesn’t have a “vested academic interest” in that particular student. That includes people at the university. So not everyone within the university or college has access to your student’s information. It is private and protected.

Instead of an IEP, students will need to connect with a campus disability services office. That office will typically request information from a doctor. Then they work with the student to develop a set of reasonable accommodations (as defined by the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) to create a fair playing field for the student. Reasonable accommodations are defined for a student by what they cannot do.

Reasonable accommodations:

  • Cannot pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others
  • Cannot result in a substantial change in the essential element of the curriculum or a substantial alteration in the manner in which the services are provided
  • Cannot pose an undue financial or administrative burden

The disability services office is designed to help your student identify and apply methods to help them be successful. How much individual regular attention they get depends on the size of the school. The larger the school, the more structured the contacts might be. The smaller the school, the more of an open-door policy they might have.

So, here’s the key thing to prepare your student for their self-advocacy. They need to be in the driver’s seat and express and advocate for their own needs. The folks at the university or college will help them to develop that voice. Their goal is to help students understand that their views are important and that they need to advocate for their own needs. It’s that extra step towards independence.

All this seems concerning, but the main takeaway is to be prepared when your student gets to a college or university. Do research on who they’ll be interacting with and what kinds of information those folks may need. Support your student as they make the transition, but prepare them in a way that they can take steps towards their own independence.

Learn other ways to teach your child independence on this website.

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